Prime Minister announces $12M for new water tech partnerships

Waterloo’s Velocity Science entrepreneurs meet with Trudeau and the Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development 

By Katrina Schigas

Marketing and Strategic Communications

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Justin Trudeau poses with a group of Waterloo students

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development visited the University of Waterloo today to announce $12 million in funding to bring industry and academic researchers together to build the next generation of water technologies.

Along with Feridun Hamdullahpur, president and vice-chancellor of the University, and Dean of Science Bob Lemieux, Trudeau and Innovation Minister Navdeep Bains also met with Velocity Science student entrepreneurs. Waterloo’s Velocity Science program is a discovery space where world-renowned scientists mentor entrepreneurs who are creating startups in the life and physical sciences.

“It’s always a pleasure to see so many innovative, enthusiastic young people and extraordinarily inspiring Faculty. Thank you so much for showing me some of the great work that’s being done here at this amazing institution,” said Trudeau.

The $12 million, from the Federal Economic Development Agency of Southern Ontario, is being provided to the Southern Ontario Water Consortium (SOWC), which is located on the University of Waterloo campus. SOWC leads the development of business-led partnerships with post-secondary institutions to create innovative products, technologies and services for the water sector in southern Ontario.

“We can’t wait to see what our most innovative Canadian companies have in store for our communities. The future is within our grasp and no where is that more clear than in the extraordinary community of Waterloo,” said Trudeau.

Justin Trudeau gets a demonstration from a Velocity company in the new science lab

Members of Velocity start up company Acorn (right) meet with Justin Trudeau (middle) and Feridun Hamdullahpur (left) on a tour of the new Science Teaching Complex.

Leaders in environmental innovation

Hamdullahpur said: “Today’s announcement further establishes the Southern Ontario Water Consortium, the University of Waterloo, and Canada, as leaders in environmental stewardship and innovation.

“As Canada’s most innovative university, Waterloo is a leader in partnering with industry through research collaboration and co-operative education and in bringing multidisciplinary teams together to tackle problems in key frontier disciplines like quantum science, aging populations, and water management,” he added.

The SOWC is currently facilitating several projects with scientists at the University of Waterloo, all of whom are members of the Water Institute:

  • Lingling Wu, a professor in the Earth and Environmental Science Department, is developing technology that removes 90 to 98 percent of phosphorus from residential wastewater. She’s collaborating with Waterloo Biofilter Systems, a company founded by former Waterloo science professor Craig Jewett.
  • Earth and Environmental Sciences Professor Dave Rudolph’s team is working with IBM and Solinst Canada Ltd., on the development of a Smart Watershed that collects hydrogeological data in real time, providing new innovations in watershed management and the protection of vital ecosystems.
  • Earth Science Professors Carol Ptacek and Sherry Schiff are also doing watershed work with SOWC. Ptacek’s lab is analyzing groundwater samples for water soluble emerging contaminants and Schiff is looking at artificial sweeteners in the Grand River.
  • Canada Research Chair Mark Servos’ lab evaluates the exposure and effects of emerging contaminants, particularly pharmaceuticals and personal care products in the environment.
  • Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) Industrial Research Chair Janusz Pawliszyn’s lab developed a technique known as Solid Phase Microextraction (SPME)Together with Servos and the SOWC, he is applying this innovative technology to enable environmental scientists to do analysis quickly, right in the field.
  • Chemistry Professor Vassili Karanassios’ lab develops miniature and nano-sized sensors for use in portable, battery-powered field instruments that can perform on-site environmental analysis.

Up to 90 businesses and not-for-profit organizations in southern Ontario are expected to benefit from the funding through the development and advancement of up to 80 collaborative water projects. The investment is expected to support at least 14 new partnerships and create or maintain 520 jobs over the course of the project.

"We need innovation; the kind of hard work, experimentation and creativity that the University of Waterloo is known for," said Innovation Minister Bains. "I saw this first hand during the tour of the Velocity centre."

Leveraging access to world-class research facilities and academic institutions, the SOWC’s Advancing Water Technologies program focuses on assisting small- to medium-sized enterprises by providing financial contributions and helping in the development of projects and proposals.

“The support announced today will be a catalyst for industry-led collaborations in the water sector.  It will enable SOWC to help Ontario companies leverage world-class academic expertise and real-world demonstration facilities to develop water technologies for successful introduction to the market,” said Brenda Lucas, executive director of the SOWC. “We look forward to working with our many partners to advance globally-competitive and market-ready products and services in this important sector.”